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Patty Stern Receives 2019 Courage & Stamina Award

On Saturday, September 7, 2019, during the Heart to Heart Concert, Hallia Baker, the concert producer and Labor of Love singer, presented Patty Stern with a heartfelt award to recognize Patty, who experienced a heart attack on August 21, 2018.

She has done a remarkable job changing her lifestyle for the better and we're proud of her continued wellness.

Patty's story is compelling. Below is the actual speech she shared with our audience from the stage.

Heart attacks in women are hugely deceiving. For me, three full days passed before I was officially told I’d had a heart attack and that I was 100% blocked. And it was only because I didn’t “feel right” and I pushed that I’m alive today.

At 8am on August 24, 2018, after a nuclear stress test, a heart surgeon told me I had to go to the hospital immediately or I would die. At first, I laughed because I actually felt okay. I put my hand over my heart and feigned what I thought a heart attack looks like. His response? “That’s the movie version.”

You had a heart attack on August 21.

At 11am the same morning, I was on the operating table. Two stents were placed in my heart. I was in ICU recovering for two days. While the surgery was successful, I was anxious to learn if I was suffering from heart disease or heart failure and what would the rest of my life look like.

Thankfully the cardiologist returned with a report of heart disease, which is treatable. But, I was also sad realizing that I was following right along in my late mother’s footsteps with health issues. Except it was all happening to me 10 years earlier than her.

Allow me to share a series of incidents that led up to the actual heart attack on August 21 of last year.

The first week of August, I experienced a burning in my chest for the first time. It was a late afternoon on a Sunday and I was in bed reading a book. I was laying in an odd position and I remember my RIGHT arm hurting. A few hours later while watching TV with my husband, Gary, my chest started to burn and totally caught my attention. I told Gary and he said I must have heartburn.

I’ve never had heartburn in my life.

Since I’d just been released from the hospital 3 weeks earlier for Lyme Disease, I was scared to return to the hospital. I thought they’d think I was a hypochondriac. I wondered about health insurance.

I’m no fool, though. Of course, I ended up going to the emergency room and was relieved upon being told I’d NOT had a heart attack.

A few hours later, I was feeling okay and I went home.

Over the next two weeks, the burning would come and go.

Having gone to a cardiologist, having been told my heart was okay, having done a stress test with no urgent results, when I felt the burning, I told myself it was because:

  • I’d quit smoking and my lungs were confused

  • I hadn’t exercised in two years and swimming again was a shock to my system

  • Maybe I DID have heartburn or acid reflux

On Tuesday, August 21, I saw my endocrinologist for a check-up and casually mentioned that I’d added a cardiologist to my medical team and that I’d experienced some burning. He told me as a type 2 diabetic, I cannot mess around when it comes to my heart. I told him “I’m on it, doc”.

I then went home to make dinner. Sauteed vegetables with seasoned salt and olive oil. Had myself a little taste. Put the chicken in the oven to roast. Around 7pm that evening, the burning in my chest was the worst it had been to date and I was frightened BUT because I’d had 3 EKG’s done, been seen by the ER and the cardiologist, and the stress test results didn’t show immediate concern, I kept myself calm that evening. But, the burning was bad. I popped Tums, I drank a glass of milk to sooth my throat. I was scared to go to sleep that night but eventually I did fall to sleep.

The next morning, August 22, the burning subsided. I actually went to a business luncheon that day. I did notice, however, that my throat was hurting, which was new. I contacted my general doctor, who specializes in gastrointestinal issues, and pushed in for an appointment the next morning.

Now were on August 23. I’m at the doctor’s office. He’s concerned. Thinks it’s a heart issue, not heartburn or acid reflux. I ask him to FAST TRACK me for a nuclear stress test. He gets me in the next morning at 8am. And of course he saved my life and I’m forever thankful that he listened and he acted on my behalf immediately.

My life has changed forever. I’m now an official member of “The Heart Attack Club”.

  • I “feel” great and “look” fabulous. But, I had a heart attack and I have to respect that. I am now on four heart-related medications.

  • I am forever on a diet focused on lower sodium and saturated fats.

  • I completed cardiac rehabilitation for 12 weeks three times a week, having my heart monitored to build strength and endurance. I now workout 4-5 times per week and will for the rest of my life.

Here’s a few useful takeaways from my story:

• Never feel embarrassed about going to the emergency room multiple times if you don’t “feel right”.

• Advocate for yourself because no one can do it better than YOU. If I hadn’t listened to my body and pushed that Thursday to get into the GP/Internist’s office, I wouldn’t have had the nuclear stress test done the next day and would not have learned I had indeed had a heart attack! Which means I wouldn’t have had the life-saving procedure done.

• Proactively build your medical team! Even though I remember that my mother built her team of doctors in her 60’s, it honestly never occurred to me to do the same! In hindsight, bringing a cardiologist onto my team when I turned 50 and going annually to get checked because heart disease is genetic in my family on my mother’s side may have helped avoid the heart attack at such a young age.

• The medical record situation in our country is crazy! It’s your responsibility to stay on top of your medical records and make sure that EVERY doctor on your medical team is in possession of all your files. I discovered this once I realized I have doctors who work for two different hospital systems and my records are split up. I invested the time to personally go see the doctors to make sure each of them have all of the files and a complete history of my medical issues. In an emergency situation this may very well save my life if I’m unconscious. As a result of what happened to me, I now focus on helping educate women about wellness and self-care.

I’ve known Hallia Baker for more than ten years and know how personal this concert is for Hallia in honor of her mother. I never imagined I’d be standing on this stage, having experienced a heart attack, accepting an award. But I am here. I am healthier today than I’ve been for a very long time. I will keep telling my story. And I hope if nothing else, you take away from my story this evening that’s it’s vital to listen to your body, it’s fine to seek out medical help as often as you need to, and it’s okay to challenge doctors and force your way into appointments. Advocate for yourself. No one else can do it quite like YOU.

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